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‘It’s eerie’: Rising COVID-19 cases, mandatory masks leave Melbourne a ghost city

The Age analysis of City of Melbourne pedestrian monitoring data found some of the CBD’s busiest places for foot traffic during morning peak hour were emptier last week than during the height of the first lockdown earlier this year.

Between 8am and 9am on Friday, a total of 167 people walked along the footpath on Collins Street outside Southern Cross Station, the lowest non-public holiday weekday total for that time of day since the start of the pandemic.

To put that figure in perspective, during 2019 an average of 3912 people per hour would have been counted walking along that footpath. Since April that number has averaged about 260 per day.

Foot traffic during Thursday’s morning peak through the Flinders Street Station underpass was also at its lowest levels since the start of the outbreak. Sensors there picked up 207 people walking through the area between 8am and 9am, down from the weekday average of 333 since April and the 2019 weekday average of 3792.

Pedestrian numbers are down across Melbourne's city centre.

Pedestrian numbers are down across Melbourne’s city centre.Credit:Bloomberg

Yannick Winoto, the front office manager at Batman’s Hill on Collins which overlooks Southern Cross Station, described the city as “dead”.

“It’s a bit eerie. You look out the windows and there is not much going on. It’s a bit strange,” he said.

“Overall, it looks like a lot less people are taking public transport, which means the station is a lot quieter. It has been like that for a while now, but it has definitely decreased in the last couple of weeks.”

And that’s backed up by the data. Figures from journey-planning app Citymapper suggests Melburnians are avoiding using transport as well.

Over the past week, Citymapper’s mobility index found 13 per cent of Melbourne’s usual public transport trips were being carried out, based on searches for public transport timetables and routes.

That puts the level of public transport usage in Melbourne on par with that during April, at the height of the first lockdown.

By comparison, in Sydney 39 per cent of the city was moving last week compared to pre-pandemic levels.

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